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Spike Spiegel (スパイク・スピーゲル, Supaiku Supīgeru) is a fictional bounty hunter and the protagonist of the anime and manga series Cowboy Bebop. He is among the more popular characters of the series, winning first place in the male character category of the Anime Grand Prix in 1998 and 1999.

According to the anime guides, at the time of the series opening, Spike is 27 years old (meaning he was born in 2044). His wild fluffy hair is almost as much of a trademark as his blue leisure suit and yellow shirt. His brown eyes are slightly mismatched, one being lighter than the other due to an incident from his past where he lost an eye. His right eye was surgically replaced by a cybernetic one. His relaxed carefree attitude and lack of tolerance for authority is apparent throughout the series, especially when Spike is seen smoking despite the weather or “No Smokingsigns.

Spike makes use of sleight of hand techniques to win card games, pickpocket, and slip things onto other people unnoticed. He is also shown to sneak up on enemies through disguise or quiet movement. He is proficient with weaponry (such as his personal Jericho 941 as well as other guns and explosives) and hand-to-hand combat skills. He is a skilled martial artist and a practitioner of Jeet Kune Do. Spike is also a pilot and flies a converted Asteroid racer called Swordfish II, which is armed with four machine guns, missile pylons, and a plasma cannon.

When he is not shown working, Spike is very laid back, sarcastic, and lively to the dismay of his crew mates. He is typically found either resting on the couch or reading a magazine. Spike’s philosophy seems to be based on the ancient samurai ideals of immediacy, such as considering oneself as dead and the idea of death being an awakening from a dream, which are both elements of bushidō illustrated in the Hagakure. Series director Shinichirō Watanabe has said that Spike has a habit of being very indirect with his emotions; for example, he may behave antagonistically towards someone he actually likes. He says that this could apply to Spike’s relationship with Faye.

Some years prior to the story, Spike was a rising member of the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate, where he worked with his then partner, Vicious. Both were mentored by Mao Yenrai. Badly injured after a shoot-out in the slums on Mars, Spike stumbled to Julia’s home, who at that time was Viciousgirlfriend. The pair fell in love while she nursed him back to health. Spike decided to leave the syndicate with Julia. Vicious informed Julia that she will kill Spike, or Spike and Julia would both face death for her betrayal. Spike apparently managed to fake his own death by engaging in a gunfight alone in a church against unidentified opponents, which allowed Red Dragon to forget about him. He waited for Julia so they could escape and be free, but she never arrived.

Some time after his faked death, Spike met the former ISSP cop turned bounty hunter Jet Black, and became partners. Spike moved onto Jet’s ship, the Bebop, and the two men worked together for three years before the other crew members joined.

Throughout the series hints and flashbacks of Spike’s past are revealed. He comes face to face with Vicious once more in the fifth episode, when Vicious lures Spike out of hiding by assassinating Mao Yenrai and kidnapping Faye. They duel each other, but survive the encounter. They meet a second time on Callisto during a botched drug transaction, but Vicious manages to escape.

In the final episode, Spike and Julia reunite and continue their plans to escape the Red Dragons. They fight their way out, but Julia is shot and killed. Spike returns to the Bebop for a meal with Jet, and the two share a moment of understanding as Spike relates his life’s situation to his partner. As he leaves to settle the score with Vicious, he is confronted by Faye. He tells Faye the story behind his cybernetic eye and the effect it had on his outlook on life. Faye asks why Spike is leaving to throw away his life. Spike answers that he isn’t leaving to die, but rather to see if he really is alive. He then departs to confront the past he abandoned three years before. He storms the Red Dragon headquarters, killing many of the members, and then he and Vicious confront each other.

After a brief clash, Spike and Vicious exchange blows simultaneously, and Vicious dies. Spike recalls Julia’s final words to him, "It’s alla dream…" before descending the staircase, where he is confronted by the remainder of the Red Dragons. Mimicking a gun with his fingers, Spike utters the final word "Bang", smiles, and collapses.

Spike’s fate at the end of the series is left open-ended. It is implied that Spike may have died from wounds sustained in his final duel with Vicious and the Red Dragons (the collapse, the fading star, the angelic choir). However, in an interview, Watanabe stated, "I’ve never officially said that he died. At this point, I can tell you that I’m not sure if he’s alive or dead." He also stated that he believes fans would be upset if there was a continuation.

In its review of the series, Anime News Network praised Spike’s character, saying, "Spikein particular runs the gamut from goofy to blasé to teeth-gnashing tough; he is one of [the] most three-dimensional anime leads in recent memory." AnimeOnDVD commented that in the movie, Spike was "much more appealing this time around than through parts of the TV series", and comparing him to Lupin III by saying that "Spike’s way of dealing with things and reacting to situations, from his movements to his facial expressions, are very reminiscent of Lupin’s that [sic] each instance brings a smile to my face." He was 4th in IGN’s Top 25 Anime Characters of All Time with writer Chris Mackenzie saying "Spike’s a flashy, funny, violent tough guy, and that’s part of what makes him fun to watch".

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